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Believe it or not, it was the very first time I visited London. Even though it is only two hours away from Paris! I had the opportunity to do a retail tour thanks to my wonderful company. As a strategic planner in a shopper marketing agency, I need to get inspiration and insights from actual retail trends.
London is simply incredible. I visited more than 14 concept stores in only one day, in the quarter of King’s Cross, Coven Garden, Oxford Street as well as Mayfair. In each of them, the sales staff was so kind, so passionate and engaged by the brand they are working for. In each of them, the visual merchandising was unbelievable and very specific; details were very important to reflect the DNA of the brand. In each of them, I was immersed in a sensorial and unique experience…
Among these innovative and surprising concepts stores, here are the 5 London’s concept stores you absolutely need to visit.
#1 – COS
COS, which means “Collection of Style”, is the stylish and refined brand of the British group H&M. The brand owns strong Scandinavian influences. In fact, the artistic director, Karin Gustafsson, studied at the prestigious Royal College of Arts of Stockholm.
The new COS’s concept store is very different from the regular ones. Located in the new shopping area of Coal Drops Yard, the place offers wonderful temporary exhibitions and a genuine mix of architecture, art, and retail.
COS concept store is the fruit of the collaboration with the British designer Paul Cocksegde. He worked a lot with the natural light so it highlights pretty well the exhibition as well as the clothes, the books, and the home decorations. Everything is coherent, the selection of the artists is following the collection displayed in the shop.
“At COS, we’re inspired by all forms and art and design. Here at Coal Drops Yard we’ve created a platform for artists, bringing together our inspiration and a special edit of our collection in one space.
You’ll also find limited-edition prints, a selection of books to explore and handpicked products from brands with a story to tell.”
I especially appreciate the work called “Conifera” by Arthur Mamou-Mani, a London-based French architect. First showcased during Salone del Mobile at Milan Design Week 2019, the 3D-printed installation explores the future of design, tech and material innovation. The materials are made from fully compostable bioplastic.
Every three months, the whole place is changing. And each time, a vernissage is organized to strengthen the proximity between the brand, the visitors and the artists and to create a powerful community. All these events make the customers coming back.
Coal Drops Yard UNIT 3, Stable Street
#2 – The Shop at Bluebird
This one is probably my favorite one. This is actually the spirit I would convey in my own store. Founded by John and Belle Robinson in 2005, The Shop at Bluebird concept store is like a showcase of curiosities and the temple of Fashion.
The new Flagship located on Floral Street was designed in an ancient stall from the 19th century by Dalziel & Pow agency. Three floors of pleasure and exclusivities. In the center, a luminous patio enhanced by a roof constructed of glass. The store is fully instagrammable, especially the fitting rooms that are amazingly gorgeous.
The Shop at Bluebird is hosting young creators and artists thanks to its seasonal pop-ups. You can find pieces of famous fashion houses like Alexander McQueen and Chloé but also very rare and unusual home accessories.
More than products, the shop is also offering excellent grooming services such as an eyebrow bar and light therapy session. From time to time, and depending on the agenda, you can enjoy a cocktail in the bar and eat some British food at the restaurant on rooftop.
The Shop at Bluebird
Carriage Hall, 29 Floral Street, Coven Garden
#3 – Gentle Monster
If I would qualify this concept store in only one word, it would be a “wahou”. This Korean glass brand was founded by Hankook Kim in 2011. He made his brand famous thanks to its disruptive approach of retail design and the particular scenography of the stores. Hankook loves to highlight creative projects from personalities and well-known designers.
Among the 41 stores across Asia and the United States, each of them is unique. Each artistic installation is specific to each store, which is stirring the curiosity of the customers. In the London flagship, we experienced the exhibition of aliens captivated by the philosophy of Kung-Fu. An experience to live on the two floors of the store.
Regarding the staff, each employee has its own style and personality, they are an important ambassador of the brand and their subjectivity are a real asset for the brand.
28-29 Argyll Street
#4 – Matches Fashion
I was expecting so much from this one that I follow a lot on social media. This e-shop is gathering more than 400 fabulous brands such as Gucci, Prada, Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen or Burberry. I visited the last townhouse opened in 2018 in the very prestigious Carlos Place, located next to the Connaught hotel. The Mount Street shops are very confidential and destinated to an international, mobile and confident target.
The experience in this mansion is fully personalized. How does it work? First, the visitor requests an appointment on the app. When the request is accepted, a personal shopper is gathering a selection of fashion that fits the style and the personality of the customer (in online 90 minutes!). Then, as soon as the visitor arrives, a private salon is all set-up to warmly welcome the customer. The personal shopper takes care of him and advised him during his fitting. In order to improve the services of Matches Fashion, the customers have the possibility to write a review in the fitting room. The third and fourth floors are dedicated to these private salons.
The first two floors are connected showrooms. All the size and colors of the items are not available in the store. Therefore, if you are interested in a specific item, you just need to scan its QR code and put in your basket the one the right size, colors,… Some yoga workshops are organized in this area, sometimes in the garden, if the weather wants it!
The last and fifth floor is hosting a café which thematic is changing regularly, as well as the chief. This is also where the team is recording the brand’s podcast.
5 Carlos Place
#5 – Lush
No need to describe Lush, everybody knows this brand. But not everyone had the chance to visit the impressive Lush flagship. An amazing jump in the crazy and colorful world of the brand. Opened in 2005, this store is arranged on three floors and 800 sqm. It means 13 times bigger than the other POS of the brand.
In this store, you will find more than 200 new references, workshops and DIY funny events in each part of the store. You can also enjoy a face massage or even wash your hair! In fact, a dozen of washtubs are displayed to experience each product.
The Lush flagship is the only place where you can discover the first packaging-free make up line. The “no gender” employees express a strong ethical engagement aligned with the ecological one.
175 Oxford Street
Bonus: Food & Drink
To eat, I would recommend you the restaurant named “Frenchie”, 16 Henrietta Street, located next to the fantastic Flat Iron. This chic neo-brasserie is owned by Jamie Oliver, who worked in the kitchen of the Fifteen in London, is a chic neo-brasserie. The food is fantastic and the place looks sumptuous.
To end your wonderful day in London, have a drink at The Brasserie of Light, located inside Selfridges, 400 Oxford Street. The place is just amazing with its giant cristal-induced Pegasus upon the head of the customers. A must-do.